Founder of all-girls school in Afghanistan escapes with students and burns records

Founder of all-girls school in Afghanistan escapes with students and burns records
·3 min read

The co-founder of the only all-girls private boarding school in Afghanistan said Tuesday that nearly 250 students, faculty, staff, and family members had made it out of the war-torn country and will temporarily resettle in Rwanda for a "semester abroad" for the entire study body.

"SOLA (School of Leadership, Afghanistan) is resettling, but our resettlement is not permanent," Shabana Basij-Rasikh tweeted. "A semester abroad is exactly what we're planning. When circumstances on the ground permit, we hope to return home to Afghanistan."

Basij-Rasikh also thanked the governments of Qatar, Rwanda, and the United States for helping the girls escape.

"My heart breaks for my country," she added. "I've stood in Kabul, and I've seen the fear, and the anger, and the ferocious bravery of the Afghan people. I look at my students, and I see the faces of the millions of Afghan girls, just like them, who remain behind."

Basij-Rasikh tweeted videos of herself Friday burning the academic records and files of the young women at her school amid the terror of what a return to Taliban rule could mean for women. Basij-Rasikh said she burned the documents to protect students and their families from the terror group.

"In March 2002, after the fall of Taliban, thousands of Afghan girls were invited to go to the nearest public school to participate in a placement test because the Taliban had burned all female students' records to erase their existence. I was one of those girls," Basij-Rasikh said. "Nearly 20 years later, as the founder of the only all-girls boarding school in Afghanistan, I'm burning my students' records not to erase them, but to protect them and their families."

Since seizing control of Afghanistan, the Taliban have attempted to reshape their image and portray themselves to Western reporters as a kinder, gentler extremist group that will respect women's rights within the limits of Shariah, though they provided no details of their new reading of Islamic law. When the Taliban were last in power in the 1990s, their hard-line stance led to the severe mistreatment of women. Women had become second-class citizens with very few, if any, rights. Girls were yanked out of school. And if that weren't enough, nearly all of the schools were either blown up or bullet-ridden.

Basij-Rasikh, who was born and raised in Kabul, was only 6 years old when the Taliban forbade girls from receiving an education.

Rather than giving in to their demands, her family dressed her and her sister up as boys and sent them to a secret school for girls in Kabul. They knew the stakes were high, and if caught, they could be killed. But they also knew the importance of education.

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Basij-Rasikh attended high school in the United States through the YES exchange program and graduated magna cum laude in 2010 from Middlebury College in Vermont. After graduating, she returned to her homeland and co-founded SOLA, the first-of-its-kind Afghan-led private boarding school for girls.

Since the Taliban takeover, she has been pleading with the outside world to keep the girls stuck in Afghanistan in their minds.

"Those girls cannot leave, and you cannot look away. If there's one thing I ask of the world, it is this: Do not avert your eyes from Afg. Don't let your attention wander as the weeks pass. See those girls, & in doing so you will hold those holding power over them to account," she said.

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Tags: News, Taliban, Afghanistan, War in Afghanistan, Taliban, Gender Issues, Education, Rwanda, Foreign Policy, Refugees

Original Author: Barnini Chakraborty

Original Location: Founder of all-girls school in Afghanistan escapes with students and burns records

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